More Texas Democrats are throwing their hats in the ring for the opportunity to go head-to-head against Sen. Ted Cruz in next year’s election.
Texas state Rep. Carl Sherman, a pastor in North Texas, is the most recent Democrat to join the race, announcing his candidacy last month. He sponsored police accountability legislation at the state legislature in honor of Botham Jean, who was shot and killed by a Dallas police officer.
Sherman’s candidacy sets up a competitive primary with other prominent Democrats looking to topple Cruz.
“You're seeing a lot of activity on the Democratic side ... because Texans are woefully unhappy with [Cruz's] time in Washington, D.C., as well as his lack of support for Texans,” Travis County Democratic Party chair Katie Naranjo told Spectrum News.
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred, a former NFL player who represents parts of Dallas in the House of Representatives, was the first to enter the race. Allred flipped a long-held Republican district in 2018 and now touts his bipartisan record in Washington.
There's also Texas state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat who represents San Antonio, who has become a vocal advocate for gun safety laws following the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, which is in his district.
Another new candidate is Mark Gonzalez, who resigned from his post as Nueces County District Attorney to run. Gonzalez was among several Democratic DAs who vowed not to prosecute abortion cases or families of children who receive gender-affirming care in defiance of legislation passed by the Republican-led legislature, which has since made him a target of conservatives.
Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said with this many candidates announcing so far, it creates a challenge to stand out among the crowd.
“With four credible candidates in the race ... you're going to have to both simultaneously work to introduce yourself to the Democratic primary voters and win their vote, but also bring your opponents down a peg,” Jones told Spectrum News.
Jones said that with the added attention of the presidential election next year, a lot of eyes will certainly be fixed on the Texas senate race.
“Whoever captures the nomination is likely to get a substantial amount of national attention, as well as national money, since the only Republican-held seat that Democrats think they have any hope of taking in 2024 is Cruz's seat here in Texas, and perhaps Rick Scott's in Florida,” he said.
“When you combine a high turnout presidential election year with the fact that six years ago, Cruz only defeated Beto O'Rourke by a little more than two points, that places Texas in sort of the competitive category,” Jones continued.
Jones also believes a Democratic primary runoff next year is likely.
“It's going to be difficult for these candidates to raise a tremendous amount of money. There also are a large number of democratic donors that don't want to choose sides in the primary that will support whoever the winner is.”
In a statement to Spectrum News, a Cruz campaign spokesperson criticized Texas Democrats, calling them "more divided and more lost than ever."
"While they fight among themselves, Sen. Cruz will be fighting real battles for Texans in the United States Senate as he has for over 10 years," the Cruz spokesperson said.
While polling in the race has so far been scarce, a survey from the University of Texas at Tyler from May shows Allred trailing Cruz by just five points. The survey showed Cruz's favorability underwater, 49% to 41%, while 48% of those surveyed did not know enough about Allred to respond to questions about his favorability.
The primary election in Texas will be held on March 5, also known as "Super Tuesday."